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AT&T brings symmetrical multi-gig connectivity to home market

Beginning this week, AT&T will offer symmetric 2.5GB and 5GB speed options as part of a strategy to combine its 5G and fiber networks.
Written by Zeus Kerravala, Contributor

The thirst for more and more internet speed continues to grow. In a world where the pandemic accelerated digital transformation, one could argue the internet connection into one's home is critically important to the way we work, learn and play. To date, however, consumers have been limited to gigabit speeds, which might have seemed fast a couple of years ago, but today is putting a cap on the things we can do. 

AT&T breaks the gig barrier for home internet 

On Monday, AT&T broke the gig barrier when it announced its fiber customers can now get multi-gigabyte (GB) internet speeds, as the carrier doubles down on fiber in its broadband infrastructure. AT&T will offer symmetric 2.5GB and 5GB speed options beginning this week.

AT&T is also rolling out simpler pricing for its fiber portfolio without additional equipment fees, annual contracts, and data caps. AT&T Fiber and Business Fiber customers with a 2GB plan will pay $110 per month and $225 per month, respectively. This is ideally suited for small businesses or those who have many connected devices in the home. The 5GB option will cost AT&T Fiber customers $180 per month and Business Fiber customers $395 per month.

Symmetric bandwidth can be a game-changer for video users or content creators  

The notable parts of the announcements are the symmetric bandwidth, as that's a rarity with broadband. Comcast Xfinity offers 2GB download speeds, but the upload is limited to 35Mbps, which is a limitation of cable. Verizon offers near symmetric gigabit fiber but not multi-gigabit speeds. Symmetric bandwidth is important for video calls, gaming, and content creators, who are uploading massive files to the cloud. In this case, customers of AT&T would see a marked performance improvement. 

Also, I'm a big fan of transparent pricing where the cost is fixed in perpetuity. Often, broadband providers offer a low introductory price and then jack the price up after a year. By now, most savvy buyers know that if one calls and complains, they can get the price reduced. Putting customers through this gauntlet annually is one reason why companies like Comcast's NPS score is so low. This skit by SNL actually parodies a call with Spectrum, which seems like a typical call to your local cable provider. 

AT&T's service is no better, but holding the price fixed is at least one less reason for a customer to contact the call center. Also, the price is inclusive of fees, equipment, and other factors that can drive a seemingly low price up. With telecom services, it's rare that you get what you pay for, but in this case, that's true. 

Fiber is a proven technology 

The fiber network from AT&T is reliable, secure, and tested. It's used by the U.S. government, the military, first responders, and leading companies with complex connectivity needs. More than 2.75 million U.S. businesses currently rely on AT&T's high-speed fiber connections.

However, businesses aren't the only ones with a need for speed. Research cited in the AT&T press material shows the average consumer has 13 connected devices in their home, which could go up to 32 devices or more in the near future. This includes traditional devices, such as tablets and laptops, smart TVs, streaming devices, gaming consoles, appliances, connected doorbells, and more. Such devices consume tons of data and demand more bandwidth.

On top of that, more people are working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Multi-gig speeds are primed for these demands and can provide the bandwidth homes and businesses require to run a multitude of connected devices. Fiber was designed specifically for high-speed internet, enabling high-capacity tasks like uploading large files during video calls, as well as gaming and entertainment. 

AT&T's multi-gig fiber launch is part of the carrier's strategy to provide customers with a seamless wireless experience from a single carrier by combining its 5G network and its fiber network. AT&T has also amped up its Wi-Fi technology. Last year, the carrier launched a gateway that's Wi-Fi 6 and Tri-band enabled to support multiple connected devices.

AT&T envisions a future of fiber that's hyperlocal, hyper-reliable, and hyper-fast. The service will be available in more than 70 metro areas across the country, including Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Dallas, which might seem like a minor number, but it's currently only available in 5.2 million customer locations, which is a fraction of the country. AT&T will expand this to about 30 million in 2025, which is still the minority of the country. If you're lucky enough to be in the AT&T footprint, the service is worth a look.

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